The ability to transfer Animal Crossing: New Horizons resident and save data from one Nintendo Switch was a much-requested feature and finally arrived in late-2020. It's not the simplest process, but if you follow the steps you'll have your precious island transferred to a new Switch in no time.

For around eight months after its March 2020 launch, it was impossible for players to transfer their Animal Crossing: New Horizons island from one Nintendo Switch to another. Once you began a save file on a Switch, your island was tied permanently to that console — a sizeable problem if you bought a new Switch, for instance. Fortunately, it's no longer an issue.

On this page we'll take you through the steps necessary to either move your entire island to a different Nintendo Switch, Switch Lite, or Switch OLED model, or transfer a single island resident (player-controlled, not one of the animal residents) to an island on a different Switch.

How to Transfer Animal Crossing Save Data Guide

Animal Crossing New Horizons Island Transfer Tool
Image: Nintendo Life

There are two types of Animal Crossing data transfers available. If you've got yourself a brand new Switch (or Switch Lite or Switch OLED, perhaps) and want to transfer absolutely everything to the new console, you'll want to choose 'Entire Island Transfer'. As you'd expect from the title, this moves your entire island and save file — including all residents — to the new console.

Here are more details from Nintendo:

Entire Island Transfer
Use this feature if you wish to transfer the entire island and all residents to a new Nintendo Switch system. The island, all progress and customizations, your animal neighbors, the island resident representative, and any other residents that have been created on the island will be transferred.

This feature is helpful if you are replacing your Nintendo Switch system with a new one and all players who have played Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be using the new Nintendo Switch system. It is also the only way to transfer your island resident representative when you have not backed up your island.

You must have access to both the original system and the new system to use this feature.

Alternatively, you might have been playing on someone else's Switch and island before you got your own Switch. Finally you have the option to transfer your character to another Switch, either to an existing island or to become the Island Resident Representative of your very own brand new island.

Again, here are the details straight from the horse's mouth:

Resident Move (Single Player Transfer)
Use this feature if you wish to transfer just one resident to a new Nintendo Switch system. The resident, the resident’s home, and most items held by the resident and kept in storage will be transferred to an island on the new Nintendo Switch system. The island resident representative cannot be transferred.

This feature is helpful when just one player wants to continue playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons on a new Nintendo Switch or when multiple residents other than the island resident representative will be using the new Nintendo Switch. The transferred player(s) will move to a new island if there is no existing save data on the new system. If there is already an island populated on the new system, the resident(s) will move to that island. All island progress and animal neighbors will remain on the original Nintendo Switch system.

You must have access to both the original system and the new system to use this feature.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Entire Island Transfer instructions

There are different instructions to follow depending on if you're keeping the 'source' Switch (the old one) around or not. We'll look at both below, as detailed on Nintendo's website, starting with entire island transfers:

1. Download the Island Transfer Tool on the source system

Animal Crossing New Horizons Island Transfer Tool Home Menu
Image: Nintendo Life

In order to transfer Animal Crossing data between Switch consoles, you'll first have to download a special (free) Island Transfer Tool from the Switch eShop. Just enter 'Island transfer' into the search bar and it should pop right up.

Also, make sure you've got the most up-to-date version of the game.

2. If you're not using the old Switch in your household anymore (eg. you're selling it or giving it away), Transfer all User Data

Follow our system transfer guide to transfer all user data (and their save data) to the target Switch, and come back here when you're done. (Repeat for multiple users if necessary.) As part of this process, all save data for the user will be transferred with the exception of the user’s Animal Crossing save data.

If you're keeping the old Switch in the family, just skip to the next step.

3. Download the Animal Crossing Island Transfer Tool on the target system

You'll also need to make sure that the game is updated to the latest version on the target system, too.

Once the game and Transfer Tool is on both systems, open the Island Transfer Tool on both.

4. Follow the instructions in the Island Transfer Tool on both systems

Animal Crossing New Horizons Island Transfer Tool 2
Image: Nintendo Life
  • Select 'Continue' and 'Let's Begin'
  • Select 'Source' on the source system (your old Switch), and select 'Yes' to confirm the name of your island
  • Select 'Target' on the target system (your new Switch)
  • Select 'Continue' on the source Switch and 'Proceed' on the target Switch
  • Select 'Transfer data' on the source Switch once it detects the target console
  • Select 'Proceed' again on the target Switch once it detects the source console

5. Wait for the transfer to complete... and almost done!

Once the transfer is finished, the data on the source system will have been deleted and you can carry on where you left off on the new system.

If you're keeping your old Switch, there are a few extra steps to follow. Here are Nintendo's instructions verbatim:

- Launch Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the target system using the User Account you will be using for your resident.
- When asked if you would like to play using existing resident data, select Existing data.
- If there are multiple residents with existing unlinked data, select your resident name.
- You will be unable to change which resident data is linked to your user account later, so be sure you select the correct resident name.
- When prompted, select Yes to confirm and start playing again as your resident.

You'll have to repeat these steps for any other user accounts or residents.

Before you get stuck in, make sure you've got Island back-up enabled on your new Switch (check our Island backup guide if you're unsure).

Animal Crossing New Horizons New Arrivals
Image: Nintendo Life

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Single Player Transfer instructions

If you want to move a single player from one island to another on another console, here's how you do just that:

1. Make sure you've got the most up-to-date version and launch the game

Start the game and select the user whose resident you wish to transfer.

2. Press the '-' button on the title screen

This will take you to the Settings menu. Once there, follow these steps:

  • Select 'Move to a new island'
  • Select Move me off the island — this will not work if you are the resident representative on your island (eg. the main player). You'll have to transfer the entire island to another Switch in that case
  • Select 'Yes, that is correct'
  • Select 'Yes, I'm ready' after you've checked the transfer details, then Yes, I'm ready!' again — the transfer request has been sent...

3. Switch to the target system

Launch the game on the target system and select the user who will be using the transferred resident. This user must not have already played the game on the target system!

Then follow the steps below:

  • Select 'I'm moving' when Timmy & Tommy ask you
  • Select 'Yes, I have' when they ask about a transfer request
  • Select 'Start the process' and 'Yes, that is correct' when your resident and their current island are shown...

4. Switch back to the source system

Select 'I want to move' to confirm the target Switch and that everything is in order

Once you see the message 'Thank you so much for waiting. Everything is ready!', you're done with the game on the source system.

5. Switch over to the target system... and you're done!

Your resident should arrive on the target island and you'll be able to choose where your house will go.

A couple of more notes from Nintendo:

  • If you are the first user to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the target system, you will be the new island’s resident representative. Moving a house takes some time, so you will be sleeping in a tent on your first night on the island.
  • If the island is already inhabited by someone on the target system, your house will be moved over immediately.

I want to keep an existing island but change the Island Resident Representative. Is that possible?

Pearly Gates
Image: Nintendo Life

Unfortunately, it seems that changing your existing island's resident rep still isn't possible. You might want to do this, for example, if you bought the game for the family and the 'main' player lost interest while others continued to play.

It's possible Nintendo may introduce this feature in the future, but right now the first person who moved to the island must remain the island resident representative.

How do I backup my Animal Crossing Island data to the cloud?

If you want to backup or retrieve your Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island data via Nintendo's cloud save service, you can follow our handy guide on the subject:

Note: In order to avoid players manipulating or duplicating data, Nintendo is rather strict when it comes to retrieving your ACNH island, stating that "Recovery is only available in situations where a Nintendo Switch console is lost or damaged".

Have you transferred your save data to another Switch, a Switch OLED model, perhaps? Let us know below.

This article is part of our Animal Crossing: New Horizons walkthrough, which includes a Complete Fish List, Complete Bug List and Complete Sea Creatures List. If you're looking for specific fish or bug, we can tell you how to catch the elusive Coelacanth, Mahi-Mahi, Giant Trevally, Stringfish, Golden Trout and all the Sharks and Beetles, along with a full list of Critters leaving at the end of the month. We've also compiled a Complete Villager List and a Complete List of K.K. Slider Songs, as well as the Best Custom Design Codes and Islands we've found so far, and the best islands to visit using Dream Address Codes.

We can also help with How to Spot Redd's Fake Paintings and Statues, How to Make Bells Fast, How to Breed Flowers, How to Get more DIY Recipes, How to Upgrade Nook's Cranny, where and when to find special characters like Gulliver, Sable, Label, Wisp, Celeste, Pirate Gulliver and Jack, plus tips on using the Star Wand, Tool Ring, Rock Trick, Cutting Down and Moving Trees, using amiibo on Harv's Island, How to Back Up Your Island Data, How to Time Travel, How to Get a 5-Star Island Rating and a whole lot more.

And finally Where to Buy Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch if for some reason you haven't yet picked up the game.